Redistricting Revisited HOWARD COUNTY

May 05, 1993

A group of parents has decided to appeal a Howard County school board decision that redistricts the boundaries for Wilde Lake and Centennial high schools. We hope they are successful, although we doubt they will win in the way that they anticipate.

The appeal, which was made to the State Board of Education, comes from several communities affected by the redistricting. It charges that by shifting their neighborhoods from the Centennial to the Wilde Lake district, school officials failed to increase the minority and non-English-speaking population at Centennial while overburdening Wilde Lake with those students.

The charge involves some complicated assumptions. But we can understand why so many parents -- 240 signed a petition -- felt their concerns were legitimate.

The matter is made worse by the notion that Centennial, considered the county's premier high school, is getting preferential treatment at the expense of Wilde Lake, which has developed a reputation for lackluster performance.

The decision by school officials looks all the more suspect because another community -- Dorsey Hall, with mostly affluent, white households -- was not included among those that were redistricted to Wilde Lake. Had it been, an appeal would seem futile, because a real attempt at achieving socio-economic balance would have been achieved in at least one high school.

But why, given the evidence, should we cast doubt on the outcome of the appeal? Primarily because the county school system has left itself a convenient way out to avoid a state reversal of its decision: Namely, that the vote not to include Dorsey Hall was done only tentatively, and could be reversed as early as next year.

It seems highly unlikely the state school board would reverse a decision that, for the moment, is incomplete.

What Howard school officials have done is buy time. They should use it wisely, first, by dispelling the notion that Wilde Lake is an inferior school, and second, by making sure socio-economic balance in the system receives greater priority.

At the very least, the appeal should apply pressure to county school officials to do more in this area than they have done so far.

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